What I liked about this year’s movies

The Borrowers (借り暮らしのアリエッティ) – This year’s contribution from Studio Ghibli (the Japanese Spirited Away studio) had beautiful, soothing animation and music, and the protagonist’s family was a model for mottai nai (not letting anything go to waste). The heroine, 14-year old Arrietty, was a good role model.

Charlie St. Cloud – Not bad, particularly dubbed into Japanese so all the lines sounded fresh.

Crayon Shin-chan: The Storm Called My Bride! (クレヨンしんちゃん 超時空!嵐を呼ぶオラの花嫁) The Simpsons of Japan once again dishes out Fun for the Whole Family!. Sadly, creator Yoshito Usui passed away in 2009. The funniest part was the vicious squadron of super-powered 30-something single women in bridal dresses that pesters Shin-chan the whole movie.

Death at a Funeral – African-American movies usually don’t get much attention, but this was the best comedy I saw this year. It was so much fun. The only downside is that it’s a remake of a 2007 British film.

Eat Pray Love – I liked only one thing about it: the food.

Flipped – I don’t know how it ends because our flight landed right before the climax, but it’s a great portrayal of junior high school. It’s so easy to be a bad person then without having any bad intentions just because you’re so wrapped up in yourself. You don’t realize yet that the things you’re so worried about are trifles and happiness comes from reaching out. As easy as it is for a school setting to become “PAYBACK TIME” for a writer, this is bright and forgiving and moves along at a slice-of-life pace. It was great to see the mentally handicapped get some attention, too.

Harry Potter 7-1 Twilight tried but failed to make Washington state as depressing as England. This film was beautifully made and rescued most of the important details from the sprawling book, about which I have complaints I’ve detailed here. I don’t like the later Potters because they didn’t adequately replace the charm and creativity that marked the earlier, lighter stuff. If Rowling wanted to be dark, she should have let me write it. Anyway, the Harry Potter releases are always nice cultural moments.

Housefull – My driver and I ducked into this movie in Agra, India, and it was a nice escape from the dust and heat. It was a blockbuster with average reviews, but I enjoyed it. By the way, just in case you think India is conservative in every way, check out this clip. Families are traditional as a whole, but the pop culture is edging closer to the United States. I noticed it in both this film and the Mumbai playbills.

Inception – Leonardo DiCaprio is one of the most successful actors in the world, but this was his first movie that I really liked. Original, original, original. I hope its success inspires more creative scriptwriting.

Knight and Day – 2.5000 stars and flustered me by putting the Running of the Bulls in Sevilla, but Tom Cruise does some of the most fun action movie god-moding I’ve ever seen.

The Other Guys – Even when his movies aren’t home runs, I can count on Will Ferrell to tell jokes I’ve never heard before. By the way, this is the second time he’s done the accountant character: check him out as a tax collector in Stranger Than Fiction, an underrated work inspired (it seems to me) by Miguel de Unamuno’s Niebla.

The Social Network – You’ve heard plenty about this already, and I’m guessing it’ll win the Oscar this year. (Isn’t it interesting that you can have separate arguments about which film is the “best picture” and which is the “Best Picture©”?) I, too, thought it was excellent. It was fascinating that an expressionless person was the emotional focal point: something crazy would happen, and I’d look forward to Mark Zuckerberg not reacting. That said, the Winklevoss twins stole the show. I was impressed by 49-year old writer Aaron Sorkin’s acute portrayal of 2004 Harvard and its students. The buzz-saw fast and sharp dialogue was mind candy for me but too much of a good thing for some of my foreign friends, who had to sweat to understand what was said or follow all the subtitles. The closing shot was inspired, too.

Temple Grandin – The TV Movie of the Year improves upon A Beautiful Mind in portraying a genius with mental issues. I could especially relate to it because my own brother is autistic. Great acting by Claire Danes.

Toy Story 3 – I usually dislike sequels because I don’t like seeing artists put so much time into rehashing concepts, but every Toy Story, while thematically similar in stressing the importance of love and loyalty, had fresh sight gags and creative scenarios that seriously impressed me.

Movies I Would’ve Liked If I’d Seen Them
127 Hours – Not only is the main character bold; the creators and viewers of this film are, as well. I’ll get to it sooner or later.

Enter The Void – Wow, just…what? It doesn’t look like the kind of picture a National Review staffer would recommend, which, besides the epileptic visuals, is precisely what intrigues me.

The King’s Speech – Guess what? 1960 was fifty years ago. It may seem like that decade just happened because it’s constantly referenced by journalists and its music is still so popular, but it was A Long Time Ago. We need to work overtime to keep the (good) values and culture that existed before that in our cultural memory. That’s one reason I’m partial to Western remakes like True Grit and 3:10 to Yuma. I’d like boys to grow up associating “cowboys” with more than just the football team. So I’m glad this movie about the British aristocracy of 1940 and its -positive- values is a success.

Last Train Home – Because loneliness is a serious problem in China…

Breathless – …domestic violence is in South Korea…

Waiting for ‘Superman’ – …and education is in the United States.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World – Because I’ve always wanted to see video game aesthetics in a theater. The more references, the merrier, and if you thought this movie was weird, just wait for the next generation, when my peers are writing everything.

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